Finance Magazine

Waterfront Blues: Summertime’s Best Fest

By Kathleen O'Malley @frugalportland

I’ll be blunt: I hate living in Portland in the summer. Heat. Concrete. Repeat. “Hot town, summer in the city” is never my first choice for seasonal joy. But sometimes we must go, or stay, where our jobs are, right? Sacrifices must occasionally be made for the sake of buckling down and paying the rent (or mortgage). For five years now, Waterfront Blues Fest has been my summertime beacon of hope, my ray of light, my shining city on the hill, my … you get the picture. Blues Fest makes buckling down bearable.

That’s right: The cure for the summertime blues is – more blues.

If you’re like me and you are a grizzled veteran of summertime music festivals, you know what they often entail: Interminable rides in hot, packed cars to out of the way locations; expensive-to-exorbitant ticket prices; massively long lines for everything (entry, food, water, the can); severe restrictions to outright bans on all outside food and water, coupled with price gouging by usurious festival promoters for those same food and water necessities. The unpleasantness gets to the point of nearly overwhelming whatever joy one can manage to eke out of the actual musical experience.

The Price is Right

Well, I’m pleased to tell you that the Waterfront Blues Festival is none of those things. Blues Fest is the antidote to all the usual festival headaches. Located in the heart of P-town, you can ride your bike there and park it for free. Or take one of the ubiquitous Max trains or TriMet buses that pass within a few blocks of Tom McCall park. Admission for an entire day of concerts is only $10 (bonus points if you bring along a couple of cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank), and you are welcome to bring the picnic basket and empty water bottles, which festival volunteers will smilingly fill for free.

You’ll Fit Right In

If I haven’t yet persuaded you to attend, let me point out that the crowds at Blues Fest are serious music lovers. They are there to have a really great time and groove on the tunes. You will be a part of the Blues Fest Mix that includes everyone from the most buttoned-down professional to the freakiest of the funky bunch, all there to celebrate summertime blues.

Fireworks …

Taking place over the Fourth of July weekend – June 30 through July 4 – Blues Fest always features impressive fireworks display on the big night. And this being the 30th anniversary of the festival, the sparks are sure to fly.

… and Stars

In past years Blues Fest has attracted such headliners as Robert Plant, The Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal and BB King. This year’s big names include Booker T, Canned Heat and Chris Isaak. One of the truly wonderful things about Blues Fest is that many acts play more than one show, on big and small stages, which means the audience has a chance to see an artist they adore from up close and personal. I’ve met artists I admire just wandering around the festival.

Volunteering = Free Admission

And hey, if $10 is out of your league for whatever reason, seize the chance to volunteer and get in free! Go to their website to sign up. I wouldn’t tarry, however, as volunteer positions are popular and tend to fill up fast (Friday, June 23 is the last day to register). And if you’re flush in cash this summer, feel free to give more at the entry, because the entire festival is a huge fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank; everything you give will go directly to your Oregon neighbors who may be struggling a bit more than you or I at this moment. Do you have the warm fuzzies yet?

It’s been a rough couple of years for a lot of us. Do yourself a favor this July Fourth weekend: set aside a little time to come and dance with the cool cats down at Blues Fest. Let a little light back in, then let it shine back out. We all need it.


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